What looked like, on paper, one of the best non-conference matchups of the season ended up being one of the most disappointing performances of the year as No. 7 Oklahoma waxed No. 9 Villanova, 78-55, in the Pearl Harbor Classic.
Give credit where credit is due: The Sooners looked every bit the part of a Big 12 title contender and a team that can reach the Final Four. Buddy Hield did what Buddy Hield does, finishing with 18 points and four boards while hitting three early threes that set the tone for the Sooners. But Isaiah Cousins was the best player on the floor for Oklahoma. The oft-overlooked senior finished with 19 points on 6-for-13 shooting (including 4-for-4 from three) to go along with 10 assists and six boards.
As a team, the Sooners shot 13-for-24 from beyond the arc. They shredded a top ten opponent, a team whose core has been a part of back-to-back outright Big East titles.
They looked awesome.
You don’t need me to tell you that.
What’s far more interesting is the play of the Wildcats, who once again failed to perform in a game where they had the nation’s eye on them. That’s part of the reason that there is this public belief that the Villanova program is overrated, by the way. They’ve failed to make it out of the first weekend of back-to-back NCAA tournaments. They were blasted in a nationally televised game at Georgetown last season. They were twice eviscerated by Doug McDermott’s Creighton team the same year they got smacked around by Syracuse in the first rematch between the first Big East rivals.
I’m not saying that it’s fair. People that watch them know how good they are.
But that’s just how it is. They have a habit of not showing up in big games, and those are the games that the public tends to remember, not the eight total losses they’ve had in the last two years.
Here’s the issue with this team as it stands: They shoot far too many threes for a team that’s struggling to make them. Entering Monday night, 50.3 percent of the field goals Villanova has taken this season were from beyond the arc, the third highest rate nationally, but they’ve only hit them at a 30.9 percent clip. Those numbers didn’t get any better against the Sooners, as Villanova took 32 of their 63 field goals from beyond the arc … making four.
That’s 12.5 percent for you English majors.
The issue isn’t that these guys can’t make threes. It’s that they take an awful lot of dumb threes. Whether they’re firing them up on the first pass in their half court offense or taking quick threes in transition, the looks Villanova is getting from beyond the arc are not good looks. I can’t imagine that will continue, not after what happened on Monday. Unless you’re name is Stephen Curry, settling for contested threes is not an efficient way to try and win basketball games.
The other problem is that Villanova only has one big man ready to contribute at this level. That’s Daniel Ochefu. When he comes out of the game, their best option is to use Kris Jenkins at the five and Mikael Bridges at the four and make themselves hard to guard. Small ball.
That’s totally reliant on their ability to be able to make defenses pay with threes, and if they’re not able to hit those threes, all they’re doing is opening themselves up to getting pounded inside.
In other words, the only thing flawed about Villanova right now is their unnecessary reliance on shooting dumb threes.